One hundred and fifty million people could be thrown into extreme poverty by the end of 2021, wiping out more than three years of progress in poverty reduction, the World Bank announced on Wednesday.
“This is the worst setback that we’ve witnessed in a generation,” said Carolina Sánchez-Páramo, global director of the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Global Practice.
Releasing its flagship biennial report on poverty and shared prosperity, the multilateral development lender said that an additional 88 million to 115 million people will fall into extreme poverty – defined as living on less than $1.90 a day -in 2020. The report said this could grow to 111 million to 150 million by the end of 2021.
That would mean that 9.1-9.4% of the world’s population would be living under extreme poverty this year, about the same as 2017’s 9.2% and representing the first rise in the extreme poverty percentage in about 20 years.
The 2019 extreme poverty rate was estimated at about 8.4% and had been expected to drop to 7.5% by 2021 before the coronavirus pandemic. The report said that without swift, substantial policy actions, a longstanding goal of cutting the rate to 3% by 2030 looked out of reach.
“The pandemic and global recession may cause over 1.4% of the world’s population to fall into extreme poverty,” World Bank President David Malpass said in a statement, calling it a “serious setback to development progress and poverty reduction.”
“The new poor are more urban, better educated and less likely to work in agriculture than those living in extreme poverty before Covid-19,” the World Bank said in its report.
Most of the world’s extremely poor people live in sub-Saharan Africa, which has made little progress against extreme poverty than other regions of the world over the past three decades.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, about 440 million of the continent’s population was in extreme poverty, a rate of nearly 40%. That is projected to rise by as much as 480 million, or a rate of 42% this year, due to the covid-19 pandemic.